Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Personal Information Protection Tips

The biggest risk to your personal information is not using your credit card on the Internet or giving it to a waiter or waitress. It’s certainly not so-called tracking cookies and isn’t even behavioral marketing companies like Claria. The biggest threat to your privacy are idiots who work for your credit card company, bank and trusted government employees. If they’re not leaving holes open to hackers on their servers, they’re getting their laptops stolen with all your personal information.

Vietnam War MemorialAs we prepare to memorialize our nations heros, over 26 million current Vets will be notified their sensitive personal information has been compromised. Apparently, an employee of Department of Veterans Affairs had his laptop stolen from his suburban Maryland home. The laptop included the names, social security numbers and birth dates of over 26.5 million U.S. veterans and their spouses. (More Info)

While officials recommend logging on to or calling 1–800–FED-INFO, I have some additional, simple recommendations for everyone out there.

It’s fair to assume that your information is out there somewhere already so you really need to take the time to protect yourself. When your bank statement comes, take the time and reconcile your checking account.  When your stock portfolio arrives, review what has occurred to your retirement data.  When you open your credit card statement stop what you’re doing and review your charges.  You should be able to identify each and every purchase.

I learned about credit malaise while working with the online service now known as AOL. Our billing department pointed out that we had over a thousand members who had signed up for our service yet over the past year never signed on again.  These members were still getting billed $9.95 a month on their credit cards and paying even though they never signed online again.  This was almost 20 years ago but I doubt much has changed.

People continue to be the biggest threat to the security of any computer system. Today, PC World has an article about “Toughening up Your Passwords” which I would recommend reading. If you want to protect yourself, you can’t just buy the protection. You have to take the time and protect yourself.


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